Tag: steve kelly
My Posthumous Friendship With a Civil Rights Hero
Back to School
I met Lawrence Gibson at a turning point in my life. After landing my first literary agent and riding the high of a hit play I had abandoned a relationship and a lucrative day job to devote myself full-time to being a starving playwright. I crashed temporarily on the couch of my generous Uncle Joey and, despite an MFA, sought out only part-time office jobs. I soon found myself with a receptionist gig at one of New York City’s many prominent private schools.
At first the administers was baffled by my application; surely, they thought, I was using the job opening as an entrée into teaching there, but I assured them I had no interest. I just wanted to leave at noon every day. They gave me the job on a trial basis. On my third day I met someone who seemed all but invisible to me, and who would, due to my own self-absorption, stop seeming that way to me only after he died. Then his spirit reached across from the netherworld, grabbed my collar and shook me into noticing him. He also enlisted my help. CONT’D AT MEDIUM.COM>>
Well, you aren’t mentioned in the book but I knew from the New York Times obit that he had a sibling named Valerie. Nice to meet you. I’m surprised not to have heard from you sooner as this isn’t the first time I’ve talked openly of my hope to adapt Get Off My Ship. Please see my previous blog posts athttp://brain-on-fire.com/jefeblog/tag/copy-berg (sadly I never got to talk about it on Coast to Coast AM as I had hoped to do). I trust we’re on the same team in wanting Gibson and Berg’s Navy story told, remembered, and restored to its rightful place in history. I consider them civil rights heroes.
I recently also received an email from someone at the Brooklyn Historical Society asking if I knew Copy’s exact address on Dean Street. They really just wanted to know if he lived on the Brooklyn Heights section of Dean for an upcoming exhibit about gay rights activists in Brooklyn Heights. I’ve told them that as far as I know he lived a few blocks away from Lawrence in Boerum Hill, not the Heights. Steve is also looking through Lawrence’s stacks and stacks and stacks of papers to see if he can find anything but so far has had no luck on a specific Dean Street address for Copy. Is this something you might know? If so I’m happy to put you in touch with them.
As for your posting and your three terse emails via my personal blog, I’ll work my way through them in the order received… CONT’D AT MEDIUM.COM>>
Egypt and Israel Dominate Talks
The closing night show was so overwhelming it’s taken me an extra day to calm down enough to write about the Ouija session with some clarity. After 7 evenings of supernatural dissatisfaction for me personally during the brief run of the show and having to close every evening using the nuclear option I was about ready to give up on the spirit world as being able to reach out directly to anyone.
M. was an eager audience member in the final show who joined in with audience volunteer S. to person the Ouija board. They were escorted away and left alone for awhile as usual to try their hands at the board, reaching out to the netherworld in the Hell Room before I returned with the rest of the audience to rejoin them and see if they’d tuned into anything. Here is the main highlight that left us all haunted, especially M:
QUESTIONER (M) (to Jeff): I’m really freaked out right now. I have goose bumps and my hair’s standing on end.
JEFF: That’s normal when you’ve brought someone into the room. Something’s here with us. Do you want to quit?
M: No. I’m just letting you know that I’m freaked. My hands are shaking, I’m afraid I’ll mess up with the planchette.
JEFF: Why don’t you stop? I can take your place.
M: No, I want to keep going.
JEFF (to Ouija board): What’s your name?
SPIRIT (or subconscious ideomotor impulse depending on your beliefs): KHEF
JEFF: Khef? I bet that turns out to be Arabic or Hindi (why I thought so). I’ve seen a lot this week so let’s assume it’s a real language and not gibberish. Are you Khef?
JEFF: Oh. Well, do you know what’s taped to the back of the grave photo?
M: Do you know anyone here?
SPIRIT: M—- (spelling out M’s name)
M: Oh wow. Do you want to tell me something?
At that the planchette shot down at breakneck speed to GOODBYE and refused to budge for anyone. Game over. We ended the session and all returned to the Blue Grotto and I wrapped up the show as usual, using the nuclear option — a personal disappointment for me but a fun way to end a show about Ouija boards.
Afterward M. stuck around as I began to strike the set for the last time, eager to talk to me at length about her first mind-blowing experience on a Ouija board this evening. She needed to unburden herself; I’ve been there, I know what that’s like so I stopped my work and listened. She was highly unsettled. She explained to me that she’s Jewish and said that in the Jewish tradition it’s strictly forbidden to contact the dead. I asked why she did it and — bless her heart — she said she did it to help me find the closure that I need. That was selfless of her but I hated that the experience had left her freaked out. In the end it’s only a show and not worth the trauma.
She said she has immediate ancestors who died tortuous deaths in the Holocaust and that she’d always been afraid to think about how they’d perished. Facing their cruel fate is her worst nightmare, and the thought of hearing directly from them about how they suffered has always been more than she could bear.
“Maybe it appeared to let you know they’re there, but went to Goodbye so quickly to avoid having to tell you what it knows you don’t want to hear, ” I suggested, “to spare you the pain.”
M: That’s exactly what it did. That’s what I’m telling you.
Then I get home and find out that KHEF isn’t Arabic, Hindi or even Urdu. It’s Egyptian. It’s the name of an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph that means “to be laid waste or destroyed.” A reference to the Holocaust in our case? And this hieroglyph appears on the Israel Stele of all things, so-called by archaeologists because it’s the only ancient Egyptian document mentioning Israel by name. And if you don’t know, a stele is a monument to the dead… Yeah. You tell me.
Good luck, everyone, with your own nightmares and ghosts, and thank you for your support for Beautiful Zion: A Book of the Dead.